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Building Design with Low Waste in Mind


Building Design with Low Waste in Mind


Ushma Pandya explains why building design should consider low waste goals at the earliest stages of design. 

Buildings are designed for comfort, productivity, entertaining and living. Buildings have historically not been designed to support low waste goals. However, that is changing as architects and developers have come to realize the importance of design in supporting low waste goals. A few years ago, the Zero Waste Design guidelines were developed and have been a catalyst for thinking about design and waste.

A simple example of the importance of design is the problem of collecting recyclable and organic materials (aka compost) in older office buildings. The pantries can be small and may not have a sink. There is no way to rinse recyclables and no room to put in a third bin for composting. If companies can solve the question of where to collect organic materials in their office space, the problem of where to store the compost bin in the loading dock area arises. If organic materials are not collected every day (and it may not be feasible economically), then a cold storage room is usually required to manage odors.

Without effective storage, tenants and property managers may be reluctant to embark on a composting program. The same issues arise in residential buildings where the refuse room is generally small and often does not have any room for compost bins, let alone recycle bins or any other specialty recycle bins.

One of the issues with designing for waste is that there are many competing priorities for space, and waste does not always have a strong advocate at the table — typically, no one is advocating for waste at the design table, but that is beginning to change. Secondly, the volume of waste and the variety of materials that are tossed have increased over the past few decades, necessitating more space for waste storage and for sorting.


Key points include:

  • Identifying the low waste goals
  • Key initiatives and design implications
  • Space requirements


Read the full article, Low Waste Goals Need to Be Designed into Buildings from the Beginning, on LinkedIn.